Mount Kilimanjaro is probably one of the most famous mountains in the world – it’s the highest walkable peak anywhere on the planet and thousands of people head here each year to climb it.
That’s all well and good, but if you’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro as part of your gap year, you should know a bit more than that – to get you started, here are a few things you might not know about the Tanzanian mountain.
The First Successful Ascent
While climbing Kilimanjaro may still be an impressive feat, it’s nothing compared to what the first mountaineers went through to tackle the summit.
In October 1889, Hans Meyer, Ludwig Purtscheller and Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo became the first people to officially reach the rim of the Kibo crater and were the first ones to ascend Uhuru Peak – the highest point – on Purtscheller’s 40th birthday.
This was actually Meyer’s third attempt at scaling the mountain and the expedition party – which also included nine porters, a guide, a cook and two local headmen – set out from Mombasa on foot – imagine walking nearly 300 km before you even started your climb!
It’s Not A Mountain …
Despite being called Mount Kilimanjaro; it is, in fact, a stratavolcano, which is comprised of three volcanic cones, the highest of which is the Kibo crater where you’ll find Uhuru Peak. Kibo is a dormant volcano, while the other two craters – Mawenzi and Shira – are extinct.
It’s been 200 years since any volcanic activity was recorded here, though, with the last major eruption occurring 360,000 years ago.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
You’ll no doubt know there are six official routes to the summit, but are you aware that only one of these follows the same path down? No?
Well, the Marangu route is one to avoid if you want to have a bit more variety on your trek, as you’ll go back down the way you came up if you choose this trail!
It’s also one of the busiest paths, so look elsewhere if you want a bit of solitude on your climb. Four of the other tracks – Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Umbwe – all share the same descent, known as the Mweka route.
It’s only ever used for going down, so you’ll never meet travellers on their way up on the final days of your trek.
Record Your Memories
While you will undoubtedly come home with numerous shots of you at the summit, taking photos isn’t the only way to record your ascent.
There’s a wooden box stored at the top of Uhuru Peak where almost every traveller to have made the climb has written down their feelings about the trek. I think it’s a lovely idea, so make sure you keep up the tradition and jot a few lines in the book for others to look back on.
Speedy Ascent: It Can Be Done!
Your climb up Kilimanjaro will probably take at least five days and, if you have time, it’s worth choosing a route that lasts for seven or eight days to give you the opportunity to fully appreciate the variety of landscapes you’ll pass on your ascent.
That said, it can be done far quicker, as Gerard Bavato proved in 2007 when he reached the Uhuru Summit in just five hours, 26 minutes and 40 seconds.
While that might be the quickest climb, Gerard didn’t manage to win the accolade of fastest round trip too – that honour goes to Kilian Jornet, a Spanish trail runner who in October 2011 set the record of the fastest run to the summit and back, in 7 hours and 14 minutes, beating the previous record holder Simon Mtuy who did the ascent and descent in 8 hours and 27 minutes.
Have you climbed Mt Kilimanjaro? How was your experience?
(photo credit 1)